Students see best of both worlds in trans-ocean training

01 March 2004

For the fourth consecutive year, students from UCT's chemical engineering department have travelled to the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC), in Brisbane, Australia, to undertake their summer vacation training.

The now well established travel scholarship had interesting beginnings in 2000 when JKMRC founder and former director, Professor Alban Lynch, was in Cape Town giving a series of mineral processing lectures to third-year students.

As part of the course, Lynch set a project that required students to familiarise themselves with the metallurgical simulator JKSimMet. Each was asked to design a grinding mill with given specifications in terms of feed, and grinding to a certain particle size.

Lynch suggested to current JKMRC director, Professor Tim Napier-Munn, that a prize of a paid trip to the JK Centre in Australia should be offered for the best project. The winning student would undertake two months of vacation work at the JKMRC over the summer of 2000/01.

Marjorie Ngwenya, an AngloGold busary student, won this and worked on a project in comminution, looking at the abrasion index used in the rock breakage function. The project went extremely well and Napier-Munn was impressed with Ngwenya's achievement during her short time at the JK Centre. In turn, Ngwenya was impressed by the amount of research being done at the JKMRC.

In 2001 when Neo Kgatuke enquired whether the project and prize were on offer again, he was informed that it was not. But he persevered and approached Napier-Munn about undertaking his vacation training at JKMRC.

When Napier-Munn visited UCT for the annual mineral processing conference in August, he had discussions with Dr Dee Bradshaw and also managed to convince Kgatuke's bursars Anglo Gold, to support him. Once again, a UCT student was able to travel to Australia to undertake a research project, a highly successful endeavour in flotation.

This prompted both institutions to formalise the travel scholarship as an award for senior students interested in mineral processing research. The costs would be shared between the institutions. Bradshaw undertook to liaise with the MPRU staff and students to establish the award criteria, advertise it and arrange a panel to conduct interviews. The main selection criteria were academic achievement, an interest in mineral processing, and ambassadorial attributes.

In 2002, after interviewing six short-listed candidates, Milly Mathonsi and Simangele Mngoma were selected. Both were supported by De Beers and the mining giant agreed to provide additional funding so that both candidates could be sent.

In 2003, the candidates were of a very high quality again, making it difficult to decide on one. This time Anglo Gold agreed to support a second candidate and Nic Smart and Nomsa Yumba were chosen to undertake their vacation training at the JKMRC.

Bradshaw agreed that the arrangement had benefited all parties and this was endorsed by Napier-Munn.

"Student exchange is a powerful way of maintaining our close technical links with UCT," he added. "It's good for the students and it's good for us."

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